(Pixabay photo)

‘Niche’ Surrey slaughterhouse ‘would open door’ to new beef markets

Proposed 30,000-square-foot beef abattoir in Cloverdale would be B.C.’s largest such facility

SURREY — A federally licensed beef processing facility is in the works in Surrey.

“There’s a new building coming forward, a new abattoir, I think that’s the french pronunciation of slaughterhouse,” said Councillor Mike Starchuk. “So Surrey will have a newer facility with a better capacity so people will have the ability to not have to ship an animal to Alberta to have it processed. The applications have gone through the Agricultural and Food Sustainability Advisory Committee.”

The facility is proposed on a 25-acre property within the Agricultural Land Reserve at 5175 184th St. The planned 30,000-square foot abattoir in Cloverdale would process up to 100 head of cattle per day.

According to a city report, that would make it larger than any other processing facility in B.C.. But it would still be small by industry standards, compared to the largest meat processing plants in Alberta that process 3,000 heads of cattle per day.

The proposed facility would be fully enclosed and designed so as to not emit odours. And while there is an operational 6,000-square-foot abattoir on the property now, it’s can only process a limited number of cattle.

Chris Les is general manager of Meadow Valley Meats, the company behind the project. Meadow Valley Meats is seeking a Canadian Food Inspection Agency license for the proposed abattoir, to become a federally registered meat establishment and expand the operation. This would allow the meat products to be transported beyond B.C.’s boundaries.

“Our focus is on trying to bring a more efficient, sustainable local product to the market, realizing we can do that now in a very limited sense,” said Les. “I caution people when talking to them and they say, ‘What a big plant, that’s going to go allow you to go mainstream.’ Well, yes, if you look in the context of B.C., but this is still a very niche plant and we’ll serve a niche industry for producers and for the market. It’s certainly not going to be a monstrosity of a plant but it’ll be a big upgrade from the site currently.”

Alberta’s operations still dwarf their proposed facility, he added.

“We’ve owned the site for a few years and essentially, over time there’s been two things, I think, that have brought this on,” Les explained. “One, is an increase in demand for federally-inspected product. We’re a provincially inspected abattoir now and it confines us to the province of B.C. for sale and distribution. The operations are essentially the same, it’s just different oversight.”

The second factor, he continued, is an increase in demand for B.C. product, both in and outside of the province, as eating local has become more commonplace.

“It’s certainly become a trend, and people want to know more about where their food comes from,” Les said. “They want to keep their diet local.”

But interest in B.C. beef is coming in from all over the world, he noted.

“We’ve had calls into our office from places as far away as Egypt and Dubai, China for sure. People are wanting Canadian beef, but there’s no way we can really compete with Alberta on that. But recently we’ve had a few calls from people wanting B.C.-specific product. And that’s kind of taken us aback. B.C. has a lot of cattle here, we just ship them to Alberta or Washington state, the vast majority, for processing.”

This new facility, he said, would “open the door” to new markets.

The application received first readings from Surrey City Council on July 24 and now requires Agricultural Land Commission approval, at which point it can be brought back to the city for a decision.

Les hopes to have an answer from the ALC in the “not too distant future.”

“It should be a very supportable non-farm use on the property, I think,” said Les.

amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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